There's something satisfying about the end of a project, even if it's just one segment of a larger venture. You planned, prepared and enjoyed the fun as games were played and teams advanced. I've reconnected with many of my childhood heroes during this run. Making things even better, my favorite team has rolled strong, with the exception of one horrible night against Pittsburgh.
My son and I started this project because it represented the seasons we owned (1971-1990) at the time. The library has grown some since then. Cards for new projects are stored and ready for "someday". He is a Yankee fan, while I love the Reds. When they play, the stakes get a little higher. But I honestly enjoy replaying any of the teams in these tournaments.
Each of these time frames are important to me. I fell in love with my wife, in the late 80s. I fell in love with APBA in the early 80s. I fell in love with baseball in the late 70s. All of those loves still remain today. And that is where my son and I find ourselves, on the third leg of our journey, enveloped in the wonderful world of APBA baseball with the best team of each franchise between 1976-1980.
In the first tournament (1986-1990), my Boy drove his '86 Yankees all the way to an undefeated championship crown. In the second tournament (1981-1985), he made a return trip to the championship game with the '85 Yanks, but old dad finally got the better of him with the '85 Cardinals.
This time, his '80 Yankees fell to the '77 Royals, but my '76 Reds have made it instead. I wonder if somehow, between the two of us, we can get one of our teams into the championship of each tournament. With the '75 Reds ready to go in the last one, I wouldn't bet against it.
The Reds are known for hitting. Even spotting the Pirates 10-0 in Game 1 of their series, they are still outscoring their opponents 31-24. Take out that one bad Pittsburgh game, and it's been domination. Let's look at how they've done so far.
Bench did not have a particularly good season in real life in 1976. Injuries plagued him all year. But in the post season, he carried the team to an undefeated run through the NLCS and World Series. That does not translate well into an APBA card. There is no PRN for heart. But somehow, with a less than "Bench-like" card, he's produced good numbers, including 2 home runs, in critical spots, 4 RBIs and hitting at a .280 pace.
The Red's Shortstop has been good - very good. Davey is not only the second highest in batting average (.292), his 4 RBIs have come at key moments. Sometimes the numbers don't tell the entire story.
The Reds would be sunk in this tournament without Doggie's production. Tony leads the club in home runs (3) and is second only to Joe Morgan in RBIs (6). With Foster slumping (.107), Tony has been one of the Reds to help take up the slack.
Little Joe has been big. With a team leading 7 RBIs, the two time MVP is making sure Griffey gets the grand tour most of the time he's on base. Joe also leads the team in stolen bases (3), and has 2 home runs.
The Red's pitching has been solid for the most part, with a 3.43 team ERA. The 10 runs allowed to Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the Semi-Finals has skewed the over all numbers. But if you take that game out, the Reds staff has a team ERA of 2.33. If the 75 or 76 Reds can get an ERA of less than 2.5, they are going to beat just about any team you want to put them up against.
The Royals had some very good teams in the late 70s. But the Yankees always had different plans for the October classic between 1976 and 1978. The Reds had memorable matchups with the Orioles, A's, Red Sox and Yankees during the decade, but this matchup between Kansas City and Cincinnati, never happened. Now, thanks to APBA, it can and will.
Kansas City has been in some nail biters so far. They've only outscored their opponents 27-22 in 7 games. KC is batting only .237 with a .287 obp as a team, and if they hope to have success against the Reds, those numbers need to increase.
You can rarely talk about the Royal's offense in the 70s, 80s or 90s, without addressing the man himself first. Brett, as normal, is producing Hall of Fame worthy numbers (.357 / .367 / 536) with a homer and 6 RBIs. He knows that he can not let up now and must continue to stay hot in order for his team to win.
Zdeb has been a clutch, if not one of the lesser known, Royals so far. Joe's batting .280 and getting on base at a .357 clip.
The Royals pitching has been strong. Ace Dennis Leonard has had a couple of rough outings, but looks to bounce back in the Championship. The bright spot has been Larry Gura, who has allowed only 1 run in 10 innings of work in relief. Gura's 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in the 13 inning finale against Oakland proved to be the difference in Kansas City preparing to face the Reds in the championship or just watching it on TV at home.
And now, we're set. The brackets are complete. The teams and cards are ready. It's time to roll!